Will farmers’ incomes increase with the P3.35-trillion budget for 2017 and subsequent budgets? Senator Francis Pangilinan wants the increase in farmers’ income to be a benchmark in measuring the success of the Duterte administration’s economic programs.
“The premise here is that if we really wish to reach a developed nation status, say in 10 years to 15 years, we are going to have to address that 21% who are the poorest of the poor,” Pangilinan said.
During plenary discussions on the budget, he noted that 66% of the poor are in the rural areas, and that 70% of rural income is off-farm. “Iyong may sari-sari store, iyong mayroong traysikel,” he said, citing a study of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies a few years ago.
The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture also noted that as the Duterte administration seeks to increase per capita income to $4,000 by 2022, he wanted to find out the government target for farmers’ incomes. He said that previous government data showed that coconut farmers did not even earn P2,000 a month.
“Vietnam, for example, has a benchmark income for their farmers as the basis to determine whether or not their interventions are successful. We can have — and I have said this in previous committee hearings — investments in agriculture. We can have bigger investments in irrigation projects, but ultimately we will have to benchmark incomes as to whether or not lives are improving and poverty has decreased,” he said during budget deliberations Wednesday.
“In other words, incomes will have to increase by the end of 2022 so that we can say for certain that our anti-poverty interventions have actually made an impact in the quality of lives of our rural area, 66% of whom comprise the entire population of poor in our country,” he added.
At the same time, Pangilinan expressed hope and excitement that the Finance Secretary, Carlos Dominguez, was a former Agriculture Secretary. “That places agriculture front and center” in the administration’s agenda, he said.
The proposed 2017 national budget is about 11.6% higher than the 2016 budget of P3.002 trillion.
Pangilinan also sought the support of the administration for his Sagip Saka bill which, among others, provides tax incentives to the private sector for donating post-harvest facilities to farming enterprises and for buying directly from them.
The bill, he said, would move Filipino farmers away from subsistence farming and toward farm enterprise management and development.
“That is the key to address the 66% of the poor in our country in the rural areas. Unless and until we do this, the way it ought to be done, they will continue to be poor, they will not move away from poverty. They will not be able to secure our food because there is a saying if you are to secure our food we have to first give our farmers and our fisher folk,” Pangilinan said.
He ended his interpellation with a quote from his daughter Frankie when she was 10: “We should treat our farmers like our parents because they are the ones that feed us. And until this government, until society gives the farmers and the fisher folk the respect they deserve and the recognition they have long been denied, we will never reach sustainable economic growth in our country,” he said.